New Portal Places More than 9,100 Children of Houston-Area Essential Workers in Child Care During COVID-19 Crisis

By: Debra Ford
| Published 05/27/2020

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HOUSTON, TX - More than 9,100 Houston-area children have been placed in high-quality child care since a new resource was launched last month to help essential workers find child during the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to a partnership between Collaborative for Children, the City of Houston, Harris County and the Gulf Coast Workforce Board.

The Gulf Coast region has assisted a third of the state’s essential worker applicants in finding quality child care. That is three-and-half times more than any other Workforce board in the state. The Dallas County, Tarrant County and North Central Texas Workforce boards combined rank second, placing/supporting a little more than 4,100 young children of essential workers in child care. There are 28 Workforce boards under the Texas Workforce Commission.

Open from April 6 through May 20, the easy-to-use portal provided a seamless option for essential workers to get assistance with child care and apply for financial assistance. Essential workers simply logged on to Collaborative for Children’s FindChildCareNow.org website to complete an online application. They received up to three child care referrals from the Collaborative for Children team and a Workforce Solutions member followed up to notify them of their financial assistance eligibility.

“We are so elated that essential workers benefited from our registration portal and referral services provided by our early childhood specialists,” said Dr. Melanie Johnson, president and CEO of Collaborative for Children, a non-profit agency. “We understand how important it is for parents to have access to quality child care and how crucial it is for our community’s young children to continue their early education even during a crisis. The preparation of young children to be school-ready has been found to yield lifelong effects on an individual, specifically where historical inequities lie.”

Early on, members of the partnership recognized the struggle essential workers faced finding child care, and with lead philanthropic support from the Houston Endowment, it devised the resource to lighten their burden. The tremendous response to the resource not only underscores the need for affordable, quality child care, but it is also a testament to how effective Collaborative for Children’s early childhood specialists were in their one-on-one interactions with parents as they guided applicants through the process smoothly and quickly. With more than two decades of case worker experience and referring high-quality child care, their personal touch and the uniqueness of the one-stop portal were paramount to the success of the resource.

“We are proud to be leading the state in helping hard-working families find trusted, quality child care,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “Essential workers on the frontlines of this pandemic are everyday heroes who deserve meaningful support. By providing this resource for parents, we’ve been able to alleviate some of the stress so many face as we all navigate a new normal.”

“On any given day, finding quality child care is critically important for parents who work outside the home, and with the complication of COVID-19, this challenge was further exacerbated with the closure of many businesses and schools. In response to this unique challenge, we partnered with Collaborative for Children, the Houston Endowment, the Harris County Judge’s Office, and Workforce Solutions to develop a unique solution to find essential workers with quality child care options and resources in an emergency,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “Rallying a diverse group of public and private partners, we collaboratively developed a strategic and innovative child care plan to increase accessibility, streamlining the process for essential workers to find child care and applying for financial support. We are proud of the outreach and success of this initiative, and we look forward to continuing this partnership to further empower families.”

“The Houston Endowment is committed to building resiliency in our community by creating systems that solve emerging, current and potentially future challenges. The emergency child care effort exemplifies the positive results that are possible when public and private sector partners collaborate on specific goals that create meaningful and sustainable change,' said Ann Stern, president and CEO of Houston Endowment.

“The last thing our families working in frontline jobs needed was to worry about who was watching their children during the shutdown,” said Mark Guthrie, chair of the Gulf Coast Workforce Board. “Workforce Solutions – Gulf Coast wanted to ensure these families had the support they needed and that their children received a child care experience that kept them engaged and making progress in their education.”

Houston-area essential workers like Jessica Sanchez-Gomez say they are grateful to finally have their children placed in high-quality child care. Sanchez-Gomez completed an application on FindChildCareNow.org after learning about the website. Just weeks earlier, her husband’s employer cut his hours, so the financial strain and working through the pandemic had been overwhelming and stressful without affordable, quality child care for their children ages 2 and 3, she said.

Now that her children have been placed in a quality child care, Sanchez-Gomez says she can work with peace of mind. “I love this program,” Sanchez-Gomez said. “I’m really impressed with how fast the process was. This helps me work without the distraction of my children and alleviates some of the stress. It’s been a blessing.”

Collaborative for Children is a leader in early childhood education with a 33-year history of serving the 13-county Houston region. Since its inception, the agency has proudly helped families find high-quality child care and early education.

Its website, FindChildCareNow.org, is a database of nearly 4,000 child care providers in the Houston region. The 20-year-old referral was repurposed to provide essential workers with referrals to affordable, quality child care in partnership with Workforce Solutions.

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